This past week a message, similar to the following, showed up in my Facebook news feed: “Where can I find a plan (not info) for someone who needs to try gluten free as a trial, but doesn’t have the time to learn all the details at the moment? Go!”
Of course, I quickly responded with a promise to send some gluten free meal plans and recipes. However, I also felt compelled to give some advice too. In order to make good decisions from the results of a gluten free trial, you have to get all of the gluten out of the diet. But, those of us who’ve been through the process of starting a gluten free diet know that the beginning is when you make the most errors.
That got me to thinking. How can you do an effective gluten free trial while minimizing the amount of knowledge that you have to learn up-front? Here’s my advice to my friend.
1. Only buy products with a gluten free label. Certified gluten free is even better. Don’t try to learn to read labels now; that’s too much work. When you pick up a packaged food, look for one thing – a gluten free label. If the product does not say “gluten free” or “naturally gluten-free”; don’t buy it. If you have a choice between a food that has a gluten free label and one that has a gluten free certification, go with the gluten free certification.
2. Check the label again before you eat: Gluten shows up on in the most unlikely places. Check the label on every single grocery item that will potentially go into the mouth of the person who is undergoing the gluten free trial. Your refrigerator and pantry are full of foods that are not gluten free, and those foods are the biggest danger during your trial because you’re in the habit of grabbing and eating. Stop and make sure the food has a gluten free label before you eat.
3. Make sure that the gluten free food stays far away from the gluten that’s still in your house. It’s very easy for gluten free foods to be contaminated with gluten once they are in your house. Think about this. You’re making sandwiches and you dip a knife into the mayonnaise jar, spread it on a slice of wheat bread, and then…..you dip it back into the jar! That entire jar of mayonnaise is now contaminated with gluten! Same thing does for the butter and jelly. Little bits of gluten can also hide in wooden spoons, toasters, and any thing with small crevices. Take extra care with bread crumbs from wheat bread and dust from wheat flour. Both of these are easily spread around the kitchen (or am I the only one that ends up with flour everywhere when I bake?!?) and can contaminate kitchen surfaces or food that’s uncovered on the counter.
4. Eat the same foods repeatedly. Variety in your diet is a good thing, except when you need your diet to be simple. And you do need to keep things simple when you’re on a gluten free diet. Eat the same foods every day for breakfast and lunch (Checkout our Gluten Free Lunch Recipes page.) Plan two weeks of gluten free dinners and repeat them if you need to do more than two weeks on the trial. Make double batches of recipes and eat leftovers. You can go all out with variety after the trial.
5. Do not eat out unless the restaurant has a gluten free menu. Eating out safely on a gluten free diet takes a lot of effort. Avoid eating out if possible. If you do need to eat out, stick with large chain restaurants that have a gluten free menu.
1. Healing Takes Time – A two week gluten free trial seems to be pretty standard, but you should know that two weeks may not be enough. First off, the two weeks really needs to be two consecutive weeks with no gluten. If you accidentally ingest gluten, I’d reset the two week clock.
You should also know that some people see huge improvements very quickly. Others see some small improvements in their symptoms during the first few weeks but only see significant improvement over an extended time. Personally, I’ve seen that symptoms that were caused by allergies or increased inflammation go away more quickly. Symptoms that are the result of malnutrition and a damaged gut take longer to resolve.
2. You Can Find Gluten Free Food That Tastes Good. If you’re eating lots of gluten free packaged foods, you’ll probably come away from this trial thinking that gluten free food doesn’t taste very good. That’s not true! Just as with any cooking, homemade foods generally taste better than their packaged brethren. Also, some of the gluten free brands are better than others. Don’t be discouraged. If you end up staying on a gluten free diet, you can do a lot to improve the taste and texture of the foods that you love to eat.
3. This Kind of Gluten Free Trial Will Be Expensive. In order to avoid spending time learning the ins and outs of a gluten free diet, you’re going to have to pay some high prices for gluten free labeled foods. It is what it is. Just know that a gluten free diet doesn’t have to be this expensive.
4. A Little Bit of Gluten Is Just As Bad As a Lot of Gluten Do not fall into the trap of thinking that a little bit of gluten won’t hurt. That’s like saying a little bit of crack cocaine won’t hurt. The mere presence of gluten in your body triggers the immune and allergic responses that are causing problems. A crumb of cake is just as much of a trigger as a slice of cake.
The Gluten Free Cooking School blog contains many of my families favorite recipes. I’d love for you to enjoy them with us.
If your gluten free trial is successful, our ebooks and cooking classes are the next step in making your gluten free life easier and more delicious.